Tag Archives | Videoconferencing

GoToMeeting Gets Videoconferencing

Built-in videoconferencing is an almost-standard feature in Web conferencing services these days–it’s even in SlideShare’s free Zipcast. It has, however, been missing from one of the biggest names in the business: Citrix’s GoToMeeting. But Citrix is announcing today that HDFaces, the video feature it revealed last October is going live after a bit of a delay. The company told me about the new feature last week in an appropriate way: it let me participate in a GoToMeeting session that used it. (That’s three folks from Citrix and me in the screenshot above.) Even though I was on so-so hotel Wi-Fi, it worked well.

HDFaces lets up to six people partake in a video conversation, with each person appearing in a window up to 640-by-480 in resolution. (The “HD” presumably refers to the maximum combined resolution of all the streaming video if six people are online at once–1920 by 960.) The technology adjusts for the bandwidth available: during the demo I got, the picture and audio stayed in sync and the session was about 98 percent free of choppiness or other obvious defects. As you’d expect, the video windows are integrated with GoToMeeting’s existing desktop sharing, text chat, and other features.

Starting today, HDFaces will be included at no extra charge as part of a standard GoToMeeting account, which costs $49 a month or $468 a year for unlimited meetings. (That’s for the host–it doesn’t cost anything to attend.) Archrival Webex already has videoconferencing in both its browser-based version and its iPad application: Citrix says it intends to bring the video feature to its mobile apps in the future.

 


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AIM AV: Absurdly Simple Video Chat

AV by AIM, the Web-based video chat service that TechCrunch wrote about when it was supposed to be an AOL secret, is now public. And it’s worth checking out. The service’s defining feature is how exceptionally easy it is to get going–you don’t need an account, and you don’t need any information about or from the people–there can be up to four of you–who you want to chat with. All you do is send them a bit.ly-like short URL that AV provides when you initiate a chat. They click on it, and you’re all in the same room.

(The biggest complication that I and one of my fellow chatters had was that AV requires a more recent version of Flash than the one we had.)

How’s the quality? Well, when I checked it out with two pals, we agreed that it’s “good enough.” Picture quality was not bad at all, but it was occasionally a bit out of sync with the audio. (I was on crummy hotel Wi-Fi, which probably didn’t help.) When we tried chatting using Apple’s iChat, the IM client built into OS X, we found that the video didn’t look as nice, but was better synchronized with the audio.

Since AV uses Flash, we wondered if that meant it would work on Android devices that support Flash. It doesn’t–or at least didn’t work on Acer’s Iconia Tab when one of my friends tried.

AV is free and doesn’t carry ads, and for now, at least, it really doesn’t have very much to do with AIM. You can send the short URL via AIM, and the whole thing probably works best if you’re IM buddies with whoever you want to chat with in the first place, since you need an alternative means of communication to arrange the AV session. It’s not going to replace more ambitious approaches to video communications, but it is fun.


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Qik Lets You Video Call Between iPhones and Android Phones

Coexistence is possible. The newest version of Qik lets Android video call iPhone users – and vice versa. Now let’s all hold hands and sing around the campfire.

The latest version of the apps works across Android (as long as you’re running software 2.1 to 2.3.3), all iPhones, the iPad2, and every iPod touch with a camera. The new app also introduces video mail.

So if you’re keen on doing some video mingling with people on the other side of the ‘hood, you better grab it now. Qik is dropping the price of their iOS app back down to gratis for a limited time. After June 1st, you’ll have to shell out three George Washingtons (fine, three dollars).

The video mail is also only free until June 1st, but prepared to pony up for a subscription afterwards.

Fring also offers video calling – in fact they have just launched a beta of group video calling – but it looks like it may be easier to talk to your best friend without jumping off the iPhone (or Android) bridge.

(This post republished from Techland.)


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A (Somewhat) More Affordable Cisco ūmi

Last October, Cisco unveiled ūmi, a consumer-oriented version of its business telepresence systems. It turned your HDTV into a very high-quality 1080p videophone, and it was neat. But at $599 for the system, plus $24.99 a month for service–times two, since it it assumed you knew at least one other family that owned one–it was too pricey to change the world. (I’ve only seen one in the wild–at the offices of a company that bought two so its Silicon Valley office could communicate with colleagues in Israel.)

Cisco made some announcements today that make it at least somewhat more likely that ūmi will show up soon in a living room near you. First, it knocked the price of the original version down from $599 to $499. Maybe more important, it slashed the price of monthly service from $24.99 to a more plausible $9.99. It also says it’s going to release a 720p version that will go for $399 and require less bandwidth. (3.5-Mbps up and down is recommended for the 1080p edition.) And it’ll offer free ūmi clients for Windows PCs and Macs so owners have more people to talk with.

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Video Calling Hits Skype for iPhone

Well, looky here–the iPhone version of Skype we wanted all along is finally here: one that does video calls. It works on the iPhone 4, current iPod Touch, iPhone 3GS, and iPad (although you really want the front-facing camera which the 3GS and iPad lack) and permits calls over both 3G and Wi-Fi. And judging from my very brief time with it so far, the quality seems quite good.

Apple’s own FaceTime set the standard for simple video calling from a phone, and other options such as Tango are already thriving. but if you’re a Skype user calling another Skype user, the new iPhone app couldn’t be much simpler–and you can make calls to Windows users, something that’s still not possible with FaceTime. (You can’t, however, make video calls to Android users–but you gotta think that a video-capable version for Android will come along before too long.)

If you give the new app a try, let us know what you think. Me, I think I’ll use it calling my three-year-old nephew and two-year-0ld niece–neither of who own an iPhone 4, oddly enough…


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Tango, the Little Video Calling App That Could

Have you noticed?  Facebook, the world’s favorite social networking tool, has been jockeying for position lately. So have Skype and Twitter. These giants lost their lead after an unprecedented run-up from newcomer Tango, a new free mobile-to-mobile video calling service. Hours after launching on September 30, Tango became the #1 free social networking app—knocking off Twitter, Skype and Facebook in the App Store—in nine countries including the United States, Hong Kong, France, Taiwan, Spain and South Korea. And, just yesterday, Tango announced its 1 millionth download from the App Store and Android Marketplace. (At the moment, it’s slipped to the #2 spot, after Facebook.)

Without any cheerleading by Apple or any existing brand awareness or installed user base to speak of, Tango’s explosive rise is a feat of virality that every app developer dreams of. “It’s unheard of,” says Patrick Mork of GetJar, the world’s largest independent app store. Clearly, there is pent-up demand for free, two-way video calls that work reliably across platforms (Android and iOS) over 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi.  Yahoo is moving in fast, too, with its newest version of Yahoo Messenger, announced Monday, which does video chats on iOs devices over 3G and Wi-Fi and allows users to place video calls to and from desktops: it’s already #4 in the App Store’s “Top Free” social networking category, just behind Tango (#2) and Skype (#3).

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ūmi: Costli

Eric Savitz of Barrons’ has rounded up Wall Street’s responses to Cisco’s new ūmi home videoconferencing system. Consensus: At $599 for the hardware and $25 a month for unlimited calls, it’s too pricey. Of course, there’s a market for expensive-but-neat gadgets, but after chatting with several Cisco executives at its launch event yesterday, I can’t quite tell if the company is going after well-heeled gizmo nuts for now, or whether it thinks it has something that’ll appeal to the teeming masses right away…


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A Brief History of the Videophone

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell made a famous phone call to his associate, Mr. Watson. Almost immediately, it occurred to folks that Bell’s gizmo would be even cooler if it had pictures. And for 130 years, people have been fantasizing about videophones, building them, and generally expecting that they’d eventually become pervasive.

Last week, Steve Jobs made a highly-publicized call–using the iPhone 4’s FaceTime video calling feature–to his associate, Apple design honcho Jonathan Ive. Tech historian Benj Edwards took FaceTime’s debut as an excuse to look back at the long, checkered history of the videophone–there have been a lot of attempts to get consumers to buy into the concept. Here’s his slideshow exploration of the subject.


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132 Years of the Videophone: From Futuristic Fantasy to Flops to FaceTime

Last week, Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 4 with FaceTime video calling capabilities brought the videophone back to the forefront of the media’s attention.  Steve Jobs’ keynote made it sound like FaceTime will bring video phone calls to consumers for the first time. But the idea of a two-way communications device that transmits pictures as well as sound is as old as the phone itself.

Economic factors have kept it out of the average consumer’s reach until the last few decades,  and the public has repeatedly greeted the concept–in stand-alone form, at least–with apathy. Still, inventors and dreamers keep coming back to the notion that the videophone is the way of the future.

Let’s take a stroll through videophone history to find out where things went wrong–and right–and how we got to the iPhone 4 and its rivals.


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Dick Tracy Watch from LG/Orange

(This post is part of the Traveling Geeks tech tour of Paris. David Spark (@dspark) is the founder of Spark Media Solutions and a tech journalist that blogs at Spark Minute and can be heard and seen regularly on ABC Radio and on John C. Dvorak’s “Cranky Geeks.”)

At the end of the first day of the Traveling Geeks tour in Paris, we went to the demonstration labs of Orange, the European telco company. They showed us what they’re offering in the areas of IPTV and 3D TV. Completely unrelated, I saw a quick demo of a very cool Internet watch by LG that can do video conferencing. Cool phone, but you now need to find the second person who has that watch just so you can have a video chat. Same problem I have with my Nokia N82. It has video conferencing and I’ve never used it. I haven’t found a second person who has the phone. Check out the video. BTW, the quality is much better, but I shot it with a Flip video camera and it doesn’t have macro focus so that’s why it’s a little blurry.


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